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How to engage employees in uncertain times – Webinar recap


In response to the continuing coronavirus crisis, HR professionals are working hard to navigate continuing workplace changes while making sure employees feel safe. Helping employees adapt to new business norms is a major concern, especially as these norms continue to evolve.

Angela Champ, an HR expert who was recently named one of Canada’s top 20 HR leaders on the HRD Global 100, provided insight into just how business and HR leaders can help employees and retain brand value in a recent CareerArc webinar: Crisis HR: How to Engage Employees in Uncertain Times

Compassion is essential

With so much uncertainty surrounding work and personal lives, it’s no surprise that many employees are experiencing more anxiety. How business leaders communicate with their workforce is key in alleviating uncertainty, and this communication should start with compassion. Angela outlines three categories that can help guide messaging:

  1. Transparency. It’s important to be as transparent as possible as changes unfold. What have you already communicated to employees? What are you anticipating?
  2. Support. Now is a good time to show staff you are there for them by providing information on assistance programs, whether offered through local and federal agencies or by your own in-house programs.
  3. Resources. If employees are on a temporary or permanent layoff, are there resources you can offer, such as severance pay, extended health care benefits, and outplacement services?

In offboarding conversations, compassion is especially critical. It’s best to have these talks in person, following social distancing protocol. But if a face-to-face meeting is not possible, a video call is also humane. In any venue, it’s okay to show vulnerability. 

Keep retained and furloughed staff engaged

HR professionals are in a unique position to help reduce employee anxiety, which often stems from unclear expectations and a lack of information and updates. HR can involve all parts of a company to figure out a solid communication plan. Will there be weekly calls, and will these be conducted within small groups or company-wide? A dedicated website or page can be regularly updated with relevant information. Another option is a hotline where members of your team can field questions.

HR can also work with management to conduct monthly one-on-one check-ins with employees. During these check-ins, three key areas to address are the head (how is the employee’s mental health? What are their worries or distractions?), heart (how are they feeling about what is going on?), and health (how has the employee been caring for themselves and loved ones?).

If needed, HR can model check-ins and coach managers to conduct these one-on-one calls. 

Return to the workplace worry-free

To figure out how best to resume business operations, Angela recommends first locating your business in one of three stages: survive (some cash flow but scaled back), revive (partially open and looking to restart normal operations), or rise/thrive (services have been in demand). Once you know your stage, determine if business needs to return to a physical setting or if remote work is still an option. Whatever the answer, consider the following steps for a safe return:

  • Show you care for employee and customer health with visible signs, including providing masks and sanitizer, staggering hours, and minimizing contact.
  • Train and re-board employees as if they are new to ensure comfort with software and other procedures they may not have used during the stay at home period.
  • Streamline or eliminate redundant work.
  • Survey employees to find out their needs. Some may need childcare and others may want to continue remotely. Be flexible and open to customizing workplace solutions. Provide support to employees who may be feeling survivor’s guilt. Mental wellness may be diminished from a variety of stressors so look for ways to help. Webinars on financial aid, isolation, and more can be a part of a holistic wellness program.

HR can play a huge part in helping businesses revive and thrive by focusing on employees during uncertain times. To learn more about how to protect, motivate, engage employees as well as managing and communicating virtual layoffs, shut-downs, and furloughs with compassion, watch the full webinar.

With the help of CareerArc’s outplacement services, companies can focus on transitioning employees with care, using personalized approaches and the latest technology. Support exiting employees and protect your employer brand by scheduling a demo with CareerArc today.

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